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Full text of "My Country And My People"

10      MY COUNTRY AND MY PEOPLE

bar in the world of an evening, sips his cocktail and picks up
and imbibes and exchanges bits of sailors9 tales on the China
coast handed down from the Portuguese sailors, and is sorry
to find that Shanghai is not Sussex, and generally behaves as
he would in England.1 He feels happy when he learns that the
Chinese are beginning to observe Christmas and make pro-
gress, and feels amazed when he is not understood in English;
he walks as if the whole lot of them did not exist for him, and
does not say "sorry9* even in English when he steps on a fellow-
passenger's toes; yes, he has not even learned the Chinese
equivalents of "danke sehr" and "bitte schon" and "verzeihen
Sie" the minimum moral obligations of even a passing tourist,
and complains of anti-foreignism and despairs because even
the pillaging of the Pekin palaces after the Boxer Uprising has
not taught the Chinese a lesson. There is your authority on
China. Oh, for a common bond of humanity!

All this one can understand, and it is even quite natural,
and should not be mentioned here were it not for the fact that
it bears closely on the formation of opinions on China in the
West. One needs only to think of the language difficulty, of
the almost impossible learning of the Chinese writing, of the
actual political, intellectual and artistic chaos in present-day
China, and of the vast differences in customs between the
Chinese and the Westerners. The plea here is essentially for
a better understanding on a higher level of intelligence. Yet it
is difficult to deny the Old China Hand the right to write
books and articles about China, simply because he cannot
read the Chinese newspapers, Nevertheless, such books and
articles must necessarily remain on the level of the gossip along
the world's longest bar.

There are exceptions, of course—a Sir Robert Hart or a
Bertrand Russell, for example—who are able to see the meaning

1 A writer signing himself "J.D." says in an article on "Englishmen in China"
published in The New Statesman, London: "His life is spent between his office
and the club. In the former, he is surrounded by foreigners as equals or
superiors and by Chinese as inferiors—clerks and so forth. In the latter except
for the servants, he sees nothing but foreigners, from whom every night he
hears complaints about Chinese dishonesty and stupidity, interspersed by
stories of the day's work, and by discussions on sport, which is the one thinff
that saves the Englishman in China. It is the only alternative to abuse of the
Chinese*